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In this article, Captain Brian Boehm (a reputable shallow water flats guide) shares his comprehensive approach to topwater fishing for snook in Florida. A special emphasis is placed on targeting big snook in the Florida back country. This post delivers the incredible experience of topwater fishing for snook in Florida while still being packed with good information.

The Author Holds A snook

Awesome Back Country Snook on Topwater

You’ll learn why topwater fishing for snook is one of the best ways to target big snook with artificial lures. The detailed list of the best topwater lures for snook in Florida is insightful. Other hints like when and where to use each topwater lure and how to make slight modifications to lures are helpful. Finally, you’ll learn important tools and processes that will make you a better topwater angler for snook in Florida.

To book a fishing trip with Captain Brian, Click Here. or you can text/call 941-400-6218

Topwater Fishing for Snook in Florida

Topwater fishing for snook in Florida is an experience made for those who love to hunt snook. Catching a big snook on topwater anywhere brings hero status. Add the rugged Florida back country to the mix and each trip has legendary potential.

The author and his son head into the back country

My son and I head into the back country

Florida’s back country is made for snook. Snook thrive in this shallow water jungle. The wildest snook live in the deepest reaches of the back country. They operate in seclusion, inhabiting secret coves and hidden creeks. If more anglers knew that topwater fishing for snook in Florida was the secret to targeting big snook, then cast net manufacturers would not be happy.

Snook are Shallow Water Juggernauts

Topwater fishing for snook in Florida is enhanced when it’s done in the back country. The first time your topwater plug is ripped from the surface in a violent explosion by a back country snook, you are hooked for life. The violent reaction of large snook once they are pinned by a topwater plug leaves some anglers shaking. It may be better than fly fishing.

In the Florida back country, big snook are shallow water juggernauts. In battle, big snook are a cross between a bull dozer and a fighter jet. They test your knots, your gear, and your ability as an angler. When you tease a big snook into eating your topwater plug, you can expect a defiant reaction. They are furious, acrobatic, and cunning fighters. Snook are everything a topwater angler could want in a gamefish.

The Best Place to Topwater Fish for Snook in Florida

An angler holds a large snook

Shirts are not required to catch big snook

Topwater fishing for snook in the Florida back country takes you to incredible places. I run my fishing charter trips on the west coast out of Sarasota, Florida. We regularly topwater fish areas to the north as far as Tampa and south as far as the Boca Grande area. These areas include Terra Ceia, Bull Bay, Turtle Bay and more.  Three brackish rivers provide additional topwater opportunities for snook. The Peace River, the Myakka River, and the Manatee River offer unique back country experiences during winter months.

I’ve spent countless days perfecting my topwater approach in the back country. Pages from my log books are filled with invaluable information. The pages are decorated with hand drawn maps, observations, and conditions. Unnamed islands and coves are given memorable nomenclatures based on their shape or the unforgettable events that took place there. ‘Snook’s Gate’, ‘The Southern Oracle’, ‘Topwater Bay’ and ‘Snook Drain’ are all back country places that I frequent. These are premiere locations when you’re topwater fishing for snook in Florida.

a hand drawn fishing map

The fabled waters of Snook’s Gate

To book a back country snook trip with Captain Brian, Click Here. or you can text/call 941-400-6218

Topwater Fishing for Big Snook In Florida

If you’re considering topwater fishing for snook in Florida, then it’s important to remember that big snook like big and easy meals. It’s that simple. They will eat something small if it’s easy. Big Snook work a little harder for a big meal because of the payoff. They are efficient predators out of necessity. As they grow, big snook enter an energy-fuel paradox. Their massive bodies require extraordinary amounts of fuel/food to operate.

For big snook to stay on the positive side of their energy-fuel paradox, they need to expend the least amount of energy for the most amount of food. This law is the backbone of their operating system. That’s likely why it’s so rare to see big snook in Florida doing anything but lying motionless or swimming at idle speed. It’s also why fishing topwater tends to attract bigger Florida snook.

a close up of a back country snook

Beauty of the Back Country

Big Snook Like Big & Easy Meals

A tremendous amount of energy is used when big back country snook exert themselves. Wasting energy chasing down small morsels of food is generally not permitted by their operating system. A small morsel that requires little effort is certainly welcome. Big Florida snook are certainly not beneath scavenging for back country roadkill either. Sucking down a recently deceased protein packed mullet costs minimal energy. Big back country snook are more than willing to play the role of vulture

Successful anglers targeting big snook in Florida’s back country adjust their approach accordingly. Give them something big or give them something easy. If you can give them big and easy, then you shift the odds of tangling with a big back country snook in your favor. At the intersection of big and easy is a topwater plug.  It doesn’t get much bigger or easier than a topwater plug.

Topwater – The Perfect Lure for Big Florida Snook

A protein packed meal struggling on the surface commands the attention of big snook. The eyes, positioned at the top of a big snook’s head, forbid them from ignoring these occurrences. Their DNA demands an immediate and appropriate response. They must adhere to the protocols of their operating system. Due diligence is required.

Due diligence is far from ‘fish on’. It simply means the snook is going to give the appropriate response to this potentially big and easy meal. Topwater plugs flip a snook’s predator switch to the on position. And that gives you a fish to dance with. The list of artificial baits that consistently make a dance partner out of a big snook is very short.

The author holds a big snook

A big back country snook on topwater

Big Florida Snook are Susceptible to Topwater Plugs

A well-designed topwater plug targets large shallow water snook probably better than any other artificial offering. The majority of large snook that we catch on back country charters are caught using topwater plugs. Why is it that really large snook are drawn so powerfully to the subtle cadence of topwater presentations?  There are a few really good reasons why topwater lures catch so many big snook in the back country.

First, topwater plugs are not something large snook see every day. Many anglers view topwater fishing as a novelty and rarely use their topwater plugs.  Maybe one out of every 20 anglers throwing artificials in the back country uses topwater in their regular rotation. Large snook are more receptive to lures they see less frequently. Secondly, big snook like big easy meals. A topwater plug like the Heddon Super Spook represents a big and easy meal. It demands attention.

The Topwater Mindset for Big Snook in Florida

Admittedly, hunting for big back country snook using topwater plugs is not for every angler. This is as much a discipline as it is a fishing technique. If you’re the type of angler that shouts “67!!!” when someone asks you how fishing was, then fishing topwater for big snook is probably not in your wheelhouse.

The Author holds another snook

Captain Brian with another back country beauty

That’s not to say that you can’t experience high catch rates while topwater fishing. There are plenty of days when you can achieve high catch counts on topwater. But the laws of nature restrict the amount of big snook you can catch. There are only so many big snook to go around.

Topwater Fishing For Big Snook is Quality Over Quantity

Anglers that pursue big snook using any method understand that it’s not a numbers game. You are actively seeking to fool, hook, and catch a snook that few anglers ever will. You are trophy hunting. Trophy hunting requires the proper mindset. Quality over quantity is your mantra.

Any bloke can catch dozens of mediocre fish. To consistently catch large snook in Florida’s back country, you should be willing to set aside the immediate gratification of constant action for the much bigger prize of a trophy snook. It’s the simplest of concepts. If you embrace this approach, you’ll find yourself in a select group. It’s an exclusive group of determined anglers that have an honest shot at a trophy back country snook on topwater.

Sun coming up over the water in back country

First Light in the Back Country

To book a topwater trip for snook with Captain Brian, Click Here. or you can text/call 941-400-6218

Dancing with Big Back Country Snook

Learning to get the most out of each of your topwater plugs is critical if you want to consistently catch big Florida snook. If all you’re doing with your walk-the-dog plugs is walking the dog, then you are not maximizing your opportunities. Every morning in the back country is different. Using the same technique day in and day out will limit your success. Change the cadence of your topwater plug until it begins to get noticed. A lot of your adjustments are going to be based on observations and feel. The more often you’re on the water getting reactions from big snook, the more confidence you will have adjusting the cadence of your surface plug.

A broken lure

There’s a good story behind this picture

Periodically stopping your topwater plug is what makes the magic happen. The simple act of pausing your bait triggers a big snook into action. The frequency and the length of your pauses should vary situationally. The fish will let you know what they prefer that day.

Topwater Fishing Approach for Big Snook in Florida

So much of dancing with a big snook is based on feel. Pauses as short as one second will trigger strikes on one day and the very next day it may require pauses as long as five seconds followed by a short bump to get the same snook to commit.

You’ll find that each topwater plug has its own personality. Two identical plugs from the same manufacturer will often have subtle differences in their action. You’ll lose your favorite plug and notice that its replacement is clunky and not nearly as nimble. Small details make a huge difference in topwater fishing.

Once you gain command of your topwater arsenal and have had enough interactions (become seasoned) with big snook, you will gain confidence. This confidence gives you the ability to dance with big snook. And big snook often require a good dance to make a commitment.

Fishing for Big Florida Snook is About Learning From Mistakes

Through practice, you will begin to be able to impart the correct movements into your surface plug based on reactions you’re seeing from the big snook following your lure. You’ll get a good feel for what might seal the deal. Maybe it’s a series of slight bumps or a long pause. The big snook may tell you it wants a short burst of frenzied walking followed by a long pause.

An angler fights a big snook

Marshall connects in the back country

Make sure you’re reading the fish. Their approach and movements should be telling you something. Embrace making mistakes. Make a ton of mistakes! You may need to spook off a dozen big snook before you dance with one the right way. Every mistake will let you know what you absolutely shouldn’t do in the future. That will keep you dancing with big snook longer. And the longer a big snook is engaged, the better chance you have of sealing the deal.

Finding Big Snook in the Florida Back Country

You can’t just wander around the back country firing off random casts and expect to hook into a big Florida snook. Big snook move with purpose and they choose an area for a reason. An area that offers the potential for easy meals should be on the top of your list of places to check. But it’s more than that.

What if an area offered easy meals on both incoming and outgoing tide? And what if that area provided feeding lanes on winds from different directions? Then you would have yourself an area that likely holds more than just one big back country snook.

In general, mangrove points in Florida’s back country are a great place to start. Big snook relate to mangrove points because they offer water movement via tide and wind. These areas offer protection for big snook if they should need it.

A mangrove point in the back country

Mangrove points deep in the back country

Fish an Area Like a Flowage When Targeting Big Snook

Pinch areas will hold big snook. They funnel food to a small area and that’s an ideal situation for a big snook. You will be surprised how many pinch points are overlooked in the back country. You should have a lot of these spots to yourself. Well, you and the occasional commercial mullet fisherman.

There is one important rule to follow when you’re trying to determine where a big back country snook might be. It’s a simple rule, but it doesn’t seem that many anglers follow it. If you fish every area like it’s a flowage (because it is), you’ll find more success. You’ll need to determine what’s driving the flowage. Is it wind or is it tide? It could be either and it could be both. Give this approach a shot and be mindful of your results.

To book a back country trip with Captain Brian, Click Here. or you can text/call 941-400-6218

Building a Big Snook Database & Circumambulation

With every big snook you encounter, you are creating a back country big snook database. A good database is the foundation for elite level fishing instincts. It’s not all that different from Carl Jung’s circumambulation theory. At the center of everything is a dot representing the highest-level knowledge of where big snook prefer to be. Your quest to find these secret backcountry locations has you circling closer and closer to the central dot.

big topwater snook held by the author

Big snook were everywhere that morning

The more good data you store in your database, the closer your orbit comes to the central point. Every interaction you have with big snook in the back country informs your database. Eventually, your database will become powerful enough to live in your subconscious where it reveals itself as instinct.

Topwater Instincts for Big Back Country Snook

These instincts will compel you to fish an area in ways that you never have. They’ll compel you to work a topwater plug in a fashion that most would never consider. You’ll know with certainty by the way a snook eats your plug that there is another larger snook nearby. You will work a nondescript mangrove point for 15 minutes, fine tuning angles and retrieves until it finally happens.

You will begin to understand where big snook should be.  Now, nothing is 100% and they won’t always be there. But on good days you’ll feel like a rock star and on tough days you’ll be able to grind your way to success.

The Best Topwater Lures for Snook in Florida

Using a straight forward approach to topwater fishing is wise. Don’t overcomplicate things. Here are five proven topwater plugs for big snook in the back country. The majority of these plugs are walk-the-dog style baits. Following is a list of my favorite topwater plugs and when to use them.

Heddon Super Spook

Any morning that starts by walking the dog with a Heddon Super Spook is a good morning. I like using the super spook when there is light to moderate chop on the water. It’s a big target and the clacking knocker inside pairs nicely with the giant profile of a Super Spook. This is a bait made for big Florida back country snook.

A topwater lure

The Super Spook

Heddon Super Spook Jr

If you had to choose only one topwater plug to fish a variety of conditions, then the Super Spook Jr. would be near the top of most angler’s lists. This is a seriously versatile topwater plug that catches plenty of big snook. On calmer mornings, substitute the Spook Jr. in place of the Super Spook. It’s a far less intrusive offering for more sensitive snook.

topwater plug for snook

The versatile Super Spook Jr

MirrOlure Top Dog

MirrOlure’s competition to Heddon’s Spook looks like a bait out of your Grandfather’s tackle box. It was designed with older classic lures in mind. It is a walk-the-dog surface plug, but it has a different gait to its walk. Occasionally, snook will let you know that they are willing to eat on the surface, but they won’t be eating a Spook or Spook Jr. That’s when the Top Dog’s slightly different gait and attitude in the water can seal the deal for you.

topwater plug for fishing

The Top Dog

MirrOlure Top Pup

The Top Pup is a short and stocky walk-the-dog topwater plug. This is a situational plug that you absolutely want in your tackle box. On mornings when snook are not squaring up larger baits, the Top Pup is the perfect choice. It’s the perfect size big snook snack. The other benefit to using the Top Pup is that Big Snook are able to get the entire bait into their mouth. You’ll lose a lot less snook when the lure is seated firmly inside their mouth.

a topwater plug for snook

The Top Pup

MirrOlure Poppa Mullet

The Poppa Mullet is a cross between a popper and a walk-the-dog topwater bait. The ideal bait for when you’re certain that a big snook is in an area and you need to draw them out. This bait allows you to work an area very slowly while at the same time creating a commotion. The ideal location for the Poppa Mullet is against the mangroves.

topwater plug for snook fishing

The Poppa Mullet Surface Walker

Modifying Topwater Lures for Snook

As you become more familiar with your topwater plugs, they will begin to feel like extensions of your hands. You may find that your favorite plugs have a distinguishing characteristic that seems to trigger strikes. This could be the sound of the clack, the gait of the walk, or the paint scheme.

If you find that a plug suddenly becomes more effective, then it’s worth taking some time to figure out what changed. This is not an uncommon occurrence. There is a belief amongst some topwater anglers that a topwater plug, like a good baseball mitt, requires time to break in.

The author's son holds a snook

My son with a solid back country snook

Small Details Matter With Topwater Lures

There may be features between brands that you find more effective. For instance, the eyes on MirrOlure plugs are generally convex. They bulge out which makes the plug’s profile more appealing to snook. The eyes on Heddon’s spook series are larger, but more concave which doesn’t add much to the plugs profile.

You, like many, may find that Heddon’s spook series walks with a gait that triggers more strikes than its MirrOlure counterpart. That is not a proven fact, but it is a common belief amongst serious topwater snook. The more you fish with different topwater lure models, the more you will begin to pick up on the subtle and not so subtle differences between lures.

Different Conditions Call for Different Topwater Plugs

You will find that certain aspects of topwater plugs can be overhyped. The aggressive marketing around sound could be suspect. The high/low frequency knocker argument could very well be hype. In choppy conditions, it’s ideal to have a plug that emits a little extra noise. It draws fish in and helps them zero in on the target. But in calm conditions, big snook may find the extra clacking highly questionable. A serious topwater angler should have a ‘silent’ plug in their repertoire.

Unfortunately, it is difficult if not impossible to find a topwater plug that addresses all of these issues. For the record, you’ll do perfectly fine using the 5 aforementioned topwater plugs, but you may get to a skill level where you want more. When you reach that point, it’s perfectly fine to overcomplicate things. If you’re an angler comfortable with doing a little handy work, then you can easily make adjustments that will customize a topwater plug to your liking.

a fish and the lure that caught it

This snook ate a modified topwater plug

Start with the Right Chassis

The Heddon Super Spook is built on a solid frame. It’s a stock car. This topwater plug is a workhorse.  Its robust platform welcomes change. Slight modifications will not significantly impact the plugs attitude in the water. Modest additions of weight will not greatly impact the gait of its walk.

The same cannot be said about MirrOlure plugs. The expansive line of topwater plugs that MirrOlure offers is impressive. Their designs are thoughtful and effective. There is no need to make modifications to MirrOlures . MirrOlures are IndyCars, finely tuned instruments.

Topwater Lures with Convex Eyes are Better

Since big snook like striking a stalled out plug, the profile of your plug from below is extremely important. Plugs should have convex eyes not concave. MirrOlure has used bulging eyes for some time on their line of plugs. Unfortunately, Heddon super spooks have concave eyes.

two topwater lures next to eachother

The spook on the right has been modified

Craft stores or fly tying stores (better) have plenty of options for you to choose from. For online purchases, Orlando Outfitters is a great option. If you’re in Sarasota, then stop by CB’s Saltwater Outfitters or Compound Board Shop.

Modifying the Eyes on Topwater Lures

Size 5/16” eyes are perfect for super spook. It’s a simple task to transform the eyes on Heddon super spooks. First, use a finish sandpaper (240 grit) to scuff the existing eye sockets. Clean these areas with water and dry them.  Apply a generous amount of super glue to those areas and place the new 5/16” stick-on eye over it and let dry. Then fill in all gaps and encapsulate the eye with UV epoxy. This makes the eyes nearly indestructible and creates a more realistic bulging eye.

Contrast not Flash

The more you fish artificial lures, the more you will notice that fish can be sensitive to the flash/gloss of a lure. Contrast appears to be more important than flash when it comes to attracting strikes. One of the reasons it may take time for a new topwater plug to become more effective, is the ungodly amount of factory flash and shine that needs to be dulled down.

an example of what too flashy is

Too flashy frightens snook

There are certainly times when snook are turned off by overly flashy plugs. A topwater plug designed for big snook should reflect the modest beauty of a Midwest woman, not the flash of a Jersey girl. If your topwater plug has a little too much Snooki in her, then you will turn big back country snook off.

When a big snook eyes your topwater plug, it shouldn’t feel like it called an escort service. Applying a small piece of 240 grit sandpaper to the flashy areas of your plug addresses this issue effectively. Sand off as much flash as you feel is necessary. It’s okay to leave a little flash on the plug.

Contrast with Color

To achieve contrast, implement the use of markers or paint. A light colored bottom and a dark top is the contrast that you should be looking for. A black or brown top over a bone colored bottom provides excellent contrast. If you are going to impart your own pattern or contrast into a plug, then you should prepare the plug’s surface first.

First, sand the protective clear coat off of your plug. The same 240 grit sandpaper will work fine in this application. Once the clear coat is gone, rinse the dust off the plug with water. Then clean the plug with acetone. Once the plug is dry, you can add your color scheme to the plug.  You will find that using sharpies or prismacolors will do the job effectively.

big snook held by the author

Capt. Brian with another big back country snoopwatFinish Your ToClear Coat 

Finish Your Topwater Modifications with a Flat Finish

Once you are satisfied with the color and contrast on your plug, give it a protective coat. A flat acrylic lacquer spray is ideal for this situation. Using a flat finish will ensure that you won’t have the unwanted flash that high gloss brings.

The plug will require a sufficient thickness of lacquer to protect the colors. The key is to use numerous light coats of spray lacquer to the plug. This will build up a thick protective coat without causing runs or drips. Applying between 10-15 light coats of lacquer will offer sufficient protective properties to your plug.

a topwater lure modified by the author

A perfectly modified and silent Super Spook

The Silent Storm

It’s difficult to find topwater plugs that come without a noisemaking knocker inside. Knockers are excellent at attracting fish and the ‘science’ behind the best frequency has taken on a life of its own. It’s ‘team high frequency’ vs ‘team low frequency’. There are times that you should be ‘team no frequency’.

Hunting big snook in calm conditions in the back country is an example of when a silent spook is the best choice. If you find yourself in an area with big snook and they are reacting, but not committing to your surface plug, then going silent can be an excellent option.

There are days that you will find the fish want a silent topwater plug over anything else. It’s a remarkable experience when you unlock snook by going silent with your topwater plug. Years ago, finding a silent topwater plug wasn’t difficult. That doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.

Making a Heddon Spook Silent

If you want a silent spook these days, it’s best if you make one on your own. There’s a simple and noninvasive procedure that allows you to convert your knocking spook into a silent killer. First, you need to know where the knocker is in your plug.

closeup of a lure

The knocking ball and rear chamber

In Heddon Super Spooks, the knocker ball is contained in a rear chamber. The knocker ball does not need to be removed. The knocker ball only needs to be affixed to the bottom of the chamber at the rear of the chamber with superglue.

The process involves drilling a tiny hole into the rear chamber and squeezing some superglue into the chamber. Make sure the knocker ball is situated at the rear of the chamber and centered before the glue dries. This is easily accomplished by tipping the head of the spook up. Once the glue is hardened you will have a silent spook. Simply close the drill hole with superglue or epoxy. Epoxy is a more durable option.

snook eating a lure

This snook ate a silent Super Spook Jr


You can make topwater fishing for big snook in Florida’s back country as intense or laid back as you desire. There is plenty of excellent information in this article that will help you improve your topwater approach. If you’re interested in incorporating a little topwater fishing into a charter, then contact me (information below).The best approach for you is your approach as long as it’s thoughtful and you put in the work.



See you on the water soon!

Captain Brian Boehm
Quiet Waters Fishing
Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Sarasota, FL 34231